Last shows of 2006?

We saw what will be the last shows of 2006 this week, unless we decide at the last minute to get tix for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra on the 30th. Sunday we went to see Paul and Storm and Jonathan Coulton at Jammin’ Java. 7:30 is usually plenty early for an 8PM show, but not that night. I’d bought tix in advance because I was worried it might sell out, and it did, and way more people were there when we came in then I expected. There were no seats left anywhere. I snagged us a place against the wall at stage right that we could just squeeze into and sit down in. Of course I had my camcorder so that was interesting to deal with.

There was another surprise when the show started: Paul and Storm were opening for Jonathan Coulton, rather than the other way around, as it was for the same bill in May. I knew Jonathan’s star was rising, but wasn’t expecting that. Paul and Storm were gracious and definitely won themselves more fans with their set, including an epic intro for “The Captain’s Wife’s Lament” where the audience took the pirate theme way too far (or farrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr), to great effect. We found a wide stool during the break, and that made the next set better. Jonathan Coulton was great, brought Paul and Storm up several times to help him sing, particularly on “Code Monkey”, “Creepy Doll” and an encore cover of “Hungry Like The Wolf”. A fun show, but he may be to big for Jammin’ Java in the future (which with the raised stage, big lights and curtains is a much better concert experience).

Monday Jill was out late at a book signing for Rachael Ray, and she had leftover lasagna (from the party) and I grilled some lamb when she got back. I was planning on going to bed early, but my email was down and I couldn’t figure out why (had to eventually get in a chat session until they figured out how to temporarily fix it) and I had to ship some packages out.

Last night we went to see Aimee Mann’s 1st annual Christmas show at the Birchmere. I’d never seen her before and wanted to. I’m also a fan of her husband, Michael Penn, and had wanted to catch them on their Acoustic Vaudeville shows several years ago which mixed music and stand-up comedy as neither were known for their stage patter. The Christmas show was billed as “with special guests”, so I hoped it might be a return to vaudeville. And it was, just not with Michael Penn.

We got to the Birchmere and parked there, then went across the street to eat at RT’s Restaurant. Their specialty is seafood, and that sounded great to us. We both started witht he she-crab soup, then Jill had the New Orleans steak frites, and I had a daily special of a half of a lobster stuffed with crawfish, shrimp, and scallops. They had a decent beer selection, I had a hefeweizen. After dinner, we walked back over to the Birchmere and got seats. Dinner hadn’t taken long and it was a little under an hour until showtime, so we got fairly nice seats, in my favorite spot (stage right). We got some drinks and chatted until the show began.

The band came out first and played a rock version of the “Nutcracker Suite”. They faded straight into “Whatever Happened To Christmas” (best known from the Sinatra version) and then Aimee’s original “Calling On Mary” (both from her new and excellent Christmas CD). Then she was joined by Grant-Lee Phillips (who used to be in Grant Lee Buffalo in the ’90s) for a romping take on “Winter Wonderland”. Much like the Acoustic Vaudeville shows, they did trade off songs now and Grant-Lee did his Grant Lee Buffalo hit “Honey Don’t Think”, then was joined by SNL’s Fred Armisen for a skit and a take on “Little Drummer Boy”. He did a couple new ones with Aimee on backing vocals, then they dueted on one of the highlights: “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”. Fred came out for a couple more bits, then Aimee did some of her secular songs, then some more Christmas ones. The part I liked the least was Morgan Murphy as an uninformed Hanukkah Fairy, though the changed lyrics to “Ring Of Fire” with a Hanukkah theme they did after that was really good.

The other original song on Aimee’s album is “Christmastime”, written by her hubby, and it was a bit odd hearing her sing it solo, since I’m used to hearing the version with the two of them together. Grant-Lee returned to sing backup on “You Do” and lead on his “Truly, Truly”, then Aimee did “Wise Up” (from the Magnolia soundtrack). The Hanukkah Fairy made another appearance, then Aimee played a couple more songs and finished with “Way Back When” off her first solo album. The encore was great, with just Aimee and Paul Bryan (her bass player) on “4th Of July”, then her hit “Save Me”, and finally one of my favorite Christmas songs, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (most people are familiar with the U2 cover), where Grant-Lee and Fred joined in. The show was supposed to be like one of those ’60s variety shows, and it was sometimes cheesy, but in a winking fashion. I really enjoyed it.

We were first out the door and got home pretty quick. Illa was certifiably crazy after spending the evening downstairs, and I had to play with him for over an hour to calm him down while Jill talked to her mom on the phone. I had a long day at work yesterday so I could leave early today and we can get out of here on time. Of course there were fires and I didn’t, but I’m trying.